San Francisco

Reuben Foster's Return Should Help 49ers Defense

With high-scoring Chiefs up next, 49ers will get their best defensive player back on the field after a two-game suspension

The 49ers built a big lead against the Detroit Lions Sunday, then almost let a victory get away.

At the end of the third quarter, San Francisco led 27-13. The Niners then had to hold on against a Lions barrage to take away a 30-27 victory.

Obviously, the defense needs to get better – fast – with the high-scoring Chiefs and Chargers next up on the schedule.

Fortunately, Reuben Foster is arriving just in time.

The outstanding second-year linebacker, suspended for the first two games of the season for violating NFL rules, is eligible to return this week to solidify a defense that will need all the help it can get against a Kansas City offense that suddenly looks like one of the most dynamic in the league behind young starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Through two games, Mahomes is completing 69.1 percent of his passes, is averaging 10.6 yards per pass attempt and has 10 touchdown passes vs. zero interceptions. Kansas City’s attack includes explosive running back Kareem Hunt and a corps of playmaking wideouts in Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, as well as tight end Travis Kelce.

Adding Foster to the starting lineup could be an enormous boost. Foster was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2017 and is the team’s most talented defensive player.

Even after a layoff, Foster may be ready to immediately start. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan surmises that will be the case, but will evaluate this week as it unfolds.

“We’ll see how he is in practice on Wednesday,” Shanahan said Monday. “We’ll see how the week goes. He’s only been gone two weeks. I know he’s working hard while he’s been away, so I plan on him being in there pretty fast.”

If Foster gets into the lineup, it’s likely he could be paired with rookie Fred Warner, who’s been outstanding. It’s not certain who the starters would be, and where (inside and outside) because of injuries and performance. Veteran Malcolm Smith’s status also is uncertain because of an injury, too.

“We haven’t decided yet,” said Shanahan, when asked if Warner would continue to start inside this week. “We’ve got to see exactly where Reuben’s at. We’ve got to see where Malcolm’s at, too. We’ve got to see our whole group because it’s been pretty fluid here these two weeks.”

Sunday’s game in Kansas City is set for a 10 a.m. kickoff.

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